Is it possible to gain admission with financial aid into top tier need-aware colleges such as Cornell/Columbia/Caltech etc. as an international student, as in, have there been any examples of NZ students doing so?
Yes, Crimson New Zealand students have gained admission into all of the schools you mentioned with aid before. Some need aware programs are naturally harder than others. Historically, there have been very few students gaining admission into need aware programs without leveraging Crimson’s support from New Zealand in particular as spots are competitive and these students receive the most intensive preparation.
There has been somewhat of an overseas study revolution in recent years driven by Crimson throughout many countries including New Zealand because the combination of 1) the exceptional calibre of overseas education in the US and 2) the widespread availability of financial aid makes for a very compelling option for sufficiently talented students.
On top of the financial aid based aid, many Crimson students have also received merit based scholarships like the Rabbi scholarship at a Columbia and the Robertson scholarship to Duke University